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Posted on 04/16/2012 9:40:52 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
B-25 bombers fly in to Ohio to honor the daring American fliers who 70 years ago took part in the Doolittle Raid on Japan
The B-25 bomber barely missed clipping the top of the mountain as its engines started to sputter. Its crew knew it was time to jump into the dark somewhere in eastern China.
With only faint moonlight to guide him down, Lt. Tom Griffins parachute snagged a mountainside treetop.
There the Army Air Force navigator hung for several hours until dawn with only the sound of occasional pistol fire breaking the nights silence. Griffin could only hope the gunshots were a signal from his crew that all had landed safely.
Morning couldnt come fast enough, but it was when I was up in that tree that I realized what we had just done for our country, said Griffin, 95, of Cincinnati.
We helped America fight back when it was down.
Griffin will be honored this week along with four other surviving crewmen to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, a historic mission in the U.S. war against Japan.
In an unprecedented combat launch led by Lt. Col. James H. Jimmy Doolittle, 16 Army Air Force B-25 bombers took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet to attack military targets in Tokyo and four other Japanese cities on April 18, 1942, four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The celebration to commemorate the raid began Saturday in Urbana at Grimes Field, where hundreds gathered to see the B-25s despite the rainy, dreary weather.
By the end of today, about 22 of the bombers are expected to represent the largest gathering of B-25s since World War II. The bombers, which are slightly different in model and makeup, are privately owned, mainly by museums around the country.
The public can see the bombers up close through Monday before they leave Grimes Field at 7 a.m. Tuesday, taking off one after another for the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force near Dayton. There, the historic planes will take part in ceremonies honoring the five surviving Raiders.
The Grimes gathering of B-25s is living history at its best, said Jim White, co-chairman of the event.
Many at Grimes who had never before seen the twin-engine medium bombers were awed by their design and the stories associated with them.
The B-25 is 53 feet wide and 16 feet tall and weighs about 30,000 pounds. Those who climbed inside saw a small, sterile interior where crewmen sat nearly shoulder to shoulder. In 1943, the estimated cost of each bomber was about $109,000.
Man, I cant believe they flew these across the ocean. Thats pretty cool, said Matthew Risner, 10, of Huntsville. They should make a movie about these planes.
Matthew might be happy to know that they did: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), starring Spencer Tracy as Doolittle.
Griffin doesnt need a movie to tell him the story. He had a seat on Plane 9 in the raid.
Born in Green Bay, Wis., in 1916, Griffin graduated in 1939 from the University of Alabama, where he was an ROTC cadet. He joined the Army Air Corps and was a navigator when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.
The idea for the Doolittle raid originated two weeks after the attack when President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he wanted to bomb Japan as soon as possible to help boost Americas morale.
People were scared, and we wanted to go to Japan and do something, Griffin said.
A few weeks later, after military officials decided to use the B-25s, Griffin and the 17th Bomb Group were picked for the mission.
But Griffins preparation for the raid was different from the others.
Only he and one other crew member were told about the mission.
They were sent to the Pentagon, where they and a few others planned the entire raid, including mapping the route in and out of Tokyo.
Only two other men were even allowed in that room, and we burned all the documents when we finished, Griffin said. If they (Japanese) knew we were coming, we would have all gone down and our planes would never take off.
Griffin said the most troubling part of the mission came the day before the raid when the American force, made up of two carriers, three cruisers and eight destroyers, was seen by a Japanese boat. That forced the planes to be launched about 700 miles from Tokyo instead of 400, as had been planned.
We were all a little worried about running out of gas before we could make it back, Griffin said. But we made it and dropped the bombs on the military targets. I dont remember seeing the bombs drop that day, but I thought of the men we lost at Pearl Harbor.
We caught a tailwind on the way back, or we might not have made it back to land in China.
Of the 80 crewmen involved in the Doolittle Raid, seven were killed or died in connection with the mission.
The bombs caused little damage but lifted American spirits and showed that the Japanese homeland was vulnerable to attack.
After the raid, Griffin volunteered for other missions. On one, his plane was shot down over Italy by German forces. He was held in a prison camp the remaining 22 months of the war until American forces rescued him and others near Munich.
When the war ended, Griffin moved to Cincinnati, where he has lived ever since. He married after the war and started an accounting business that lasted about 35 years until he retired. His was married to his wife, Esther, for more than 50 years before she died a few years ago. They had two boys and four grandchildren.
Griffin said he is glad he found a way to wiggle out of that tree in China, and it makes him proud that people today still honor the B-25s and their crews.
If we hadnt made it, who knows how that would have changed the war, he said, or how it might have changed the world.
Griffin is in the center rear of this picture. Slide show is at source link.
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How they forget..
Allow me to translate: "..died in connection with the mission..: THREE were executed by the Japanese, and one died of mistreatment/malnutritin/disease while in a Jap POW camp
Thank Heaven we had those kind of men when we really needed them.
Thank Heaven we had those kind of men when we really needed them.
Celebrating “Doolittle’s Raiders,” who some say changed the course of World War II
CBS NEWS VIDEO:
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